A member of the House Freedom Caucus (HFC) said Thursday that the ultimate check and balance over a Kevin McCarthy speakership will be the GOP’s narrow House majority, which will give the dozens of HFC members veto power over the Republican agenda this year.
Rep.-elect Troy Nehls, R-Texas, is one of the dozens of HFC members who have been voting for McCarthy this week. On Thursday, Nehls nominated McCarthy and said the would-be speaker is fully aware of the need to get a buy-in from the HFC before any bill passes.
“Kevin is aware that any legislation he would like to pass out of this House will require support and endorsement from the Freedom Caucus,” Nehls said on the House floor. “This is where I believe we can hold the speaker accountable.”
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When members are finally sworn in, Republicans will hold a narrow majority of just a few seats – bills can pass with a 218 majority with every member present, and Republicans hold just 222 seats, which means they can lose only four votes. The unsuccessful GOP effort to elect McCarthy as House speaker this week has shown just how difficult passing legislation might be this year, and Nehls said the HFC would continue to exert pressure on GOP leadership once the work of legislating begins.
For example, McCarthy has agreed to allow just one member to raise a point of order to seek out a new speaker, and Nehls said that gives all GOP lawyers really accountability over McCarthy.
“This motion allows us, the Republican conference, to hold the speaker accountable,” he said.
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However, while some have said McCarthy might be conceding too much, Nehls said the goal is to make sure Republicans stay accountable to the voters who gave Republicans the House majority.
“Kevin McCarthy understands, he understands he must protect that speaker’s gavel and abide the will of the American people,” Nehls said. “The decisions we make in the 118th Congress are critical to the future of our country. The decisions we make, the legislation we pass as a Republican majority must have the support of the American people.”
Nehls said House Republicans understand the issues Americans face, like lack of control of the southern US border, high inflation and rampant crime, and said Republicans “must place America and its people first.”
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Late Thursday and early Friday, McCarthy presented a rules package to Republicans aimed at allowing some of the 20 HFC members who have opposed McCarthy so far to support him. Among other things, the package promises new curbs on spending, votes on term limits and a balanced budget and ensuring HFC members are represented on key House committees.
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Republicans were reviewing that agreement on Friday, and some had hopes that it could break the logjam seen this week and allow McCarthy to win a majority of House votes for speaker by next week.